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As Mayor Lori Lightfoot prepares to end her term, it’s imperative that one of her key moves not fall by the wayside during the transition: her executive order that the City’s departments direct at least half of their ad budgets to be spent with community media. 

The order, which also benefits Black community media, underscored key findings in a recent Nielsen study on how media and marketers, who do not understand the value of diverse owned and programmed media, often come up short in connecting with Black consumers. 

Namely, Black audiences seek out and are drawn to authenticity and nuance in media content and ad campaigns. The executive order aims “to ensure that City communications and information on programs are accessible to all of our residents — no matter their circumstances.” And local media are key to building trust and lasting relationships with the communities they serve. In fact, Nielsen’s research shows 19 percent of Black adults in Chicago agree their favorite radio stations help them stay connected to their community.   

Given that Chicago is one of the country’s most diverse cities, “it’s only right that City government honors the diversity by supporting community and ethnic media outlets,” Lightfoot announced about her “equity-based Executive Order.” 

Mayor Lightfoot had a point. Nielsen’s recent Diverse Intelligence Series report, titled Amplifying Black voices in media: Creating informed, thoughtful and authentic experiences, highlights the demand among Black audiences for authentic representation not just in content but in advertising. For brands, or government agencies, trying to break through with diverse populations, the messages have to connect and be meaningful. Black-owned media across the city can help local agencies’ messages within Black communities. Our report highlights the role diverse-owned media has in garnering trust across Black America. Nationwide, Black audiences are the most likely to seek out diverse-owned media sources and 56 percent trust them more.  

Bottom line? Black audiences are paying as much attention to the messenger as they are to the message. It’s another reason our research focused on the special role influencers across the digital landscape have with the community as well. Black adults were 71 percent more likely to buy products endorsed by influencers on social media. In addition to the power of local television and radio, the city’s advertising dollars can also invest with the right local digital partners to get Black residents’ attention.  

It’s important to meet people where they are when attempting to communicate — and that includes the media they consume.

Diverse-owned media outlets, many of which are local, have built legacies of trust and partnership with the communities they cover, and they have often led the way in elevating important stories and people often rendered to the margins of society, especially when general market outlets failed or fell short in doing so. 

Policies like Mayor Lightfoot’s executive order, modeled after New York City’s groundbreaking 2019 executive order, which funneled ad dollars to New York’s local community media outlets, could be a turning point for many community and diverse-owned outlets that don’t often receive the same level of investment and advertising spend. 

These policy changes could provide diverse owners with additional capital supporting other in-depth local projects related to community, social justice, to cover the local news of the day, or even to potentially hire more staff or freelancers to cover the issues people care about. And the executive order may also encourage other governmental bodies regionally and nationally to follow suit — as well as businesses and nonprofits seeking authentic connection with diverse audiences and diverse-owned media and the communities they cover. 

It’s clear that diverse audiences wield cultural influence and growing buying power. Inclusive and equitable ad spending is not only good business, but also the right thing to do.

is vice president and head of diverse insights and initiatives at Nielsen.